Changing Big Business
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Changing Big Business

The Globalisation of the Fair Trade Movement

Anna Hutchens

Drawing on candid accounts from practitioners, producers and industry representatives, this informative and proactive volume investigates the challenges facing today’s fair trade movement and provides unique insights into the workings of social and economic power in world markets.
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Chapter 2: ‘Power Over’ as Global Power in World Markets

Anna Hutchens


A key theme in the history of ideas about power is ‘power over’: the ability to get one person or group to get another person or group to do something against their will (see Chapter 1). In the shift from an industrial to a post-industrial economy (Toffler, 1980; Drucker, 1969; Bell, 1978), ‘power over’ can be seen as having shifted from the hegemony of the state to the hegemony of global corporations. The brand is the basis of corporate hegemonic power. It is an image of the trade mark, itself an abstract object that embodies a set of legal rights of ownership that have recently been deepened and globalised (Drahos with Braithwaite, 2002; Bellman et al., 2005). This chapter outlines how corporate ‘power over’ has become global power: through the ownership of abstract objects in world markets (see Drahos, 1996). A psychological theory of the image explains how the image – and therefore the brand – works to influence consumers’ subjectivity. Added to this is a theory of abstract objects and intellectual property (ibid.) that explains how the image is the subject of exclusive proprietorial control. The modern history of the global coffee market – a vignette of transformations in North–South agricultural trade relations and the broader economy – brings to life these psycho-social and legal machinations of corporate hegemonic power. A MODERN HISTORY OF THE GLOBAL COFFEE MARKET After World War II and until a quarter of a century ago, agro-industrial development and trade in tropical agricultural commodities between...

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